It’s a team with lots of speed and we have speed so I think we’re going to see a real good hockey game. - Bob Hartley
TORONTO, ON -- Though they aren’t divisional opponents nor conference rivals, Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley is more than aware of the challenge the Toronto Maple Leafs present.
The Flames, set to kick off a four-game road trip at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday, are up for that challenge.
“It’s a team with lots of speed and we have speed so I think we’re going to see a real good hockey game,” Hartley said. “As we know, it can go any kind of way but we’ve been watching them for the past few weeks. Four lines, they’re rolling four lines. (Jonathan) Bernier is playing very well. Their blue line is playing good also. I think it’s going to be a good battle.”
Toronto isn’t shy to get offensive, or physical.
The Maple Leafs rank second in the NHL in goals scored per game at 3.36. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning (3.50) have averaged more. Toronto also leads the NHL in shorthanded goals with six and takeaways with 269. Their 787 hits this season also ranks them second in the League.
They’re also 5-1-1 since taking a 9-2 drubbing at the hands of the Nashville Predators on Nov. 18.
But the Maple Leafs are aware of what Calgary can do, too.
“What we try to do is we try to have a template that we create taking information that the video supplies us,” Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. “Obviously you have to look at what teams are doing first on special teams. We take a look at that and then take a look at forecheck, take a look at the neutral ice and the defensive zone.
“When you look at the Calgary Flames, the energy is one thing that is front and centre. They have young guys that are playing at a very high level. Their work ethic, their forecheck is very noticeable. Their backside pressure, their d-men that are on the ice seem to have the mentality that they have the green light to join the rush. They do a lot of surfing at the offensive blue line.”
Though coming off a loss, Calgary has won four of the past five games and seven of their past 10.
The Flames are fifth in goals-per-game in averaging 3.04 and lead the NHL with 527 blocked shots. They
haven’t allowed a goal against on the road in over 120 minutes, either.
“They’re where they’re at in the standings for a reason,” Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said. “You have to give credit to your opposition. They’re a very good team. Maybe at the start of the year people weren’t expecting them to be where they’re at but the reality is they’re where they are and they deserve to be where they are. They play extremely hard.
“From the pre-scout that we’ve done, we know they play. They place an up-pace, fast, aggressive game. That’s why they’ve had success. We know what kind of team we’re playing tonight and we’ve got a lot of respect for our opponent and the way that they’re playing and the way they have played.”
Sidelined for 18 straight games with a shoulder injury, Mason Raymond will make his return to the lineup against the team he played a full 82 games for a year ago.
“I don’t know if I ever feel 100 percent to be perfectly honest but I feel good. My shoulder has completely recovered and I’m itching to get out there,” said Raymond, who had 19 goals and 45 points with the Maple Leafs in 2013-14. “Coming back from injury and an injury of this magnitude is not easy. I’ve had a good week of practice and I feel like I’m at that point and ready to get back in – I feel healthy enough to go play.
“I’m excited to get back, the team has been doing extremely well, which has been really fun and a pleasure to watch and now I want to be a part of that solution.”
Raymond had five goals and seven points in 10 games before leaving a sustaining the injury. He last played on Oct. 25 in Calgary’s 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals, taking 23 shifts for 20:39.
He’s returning in familiar territory. A year ago, the 29-year-old had 19 goals and 45 points for Toronto.
“[It’s special] for my just coming back from an injury but playing against a former team is always a fun night and [it’s a night] you circle on the calendar,” Raymond said. “I have many things tonight that I want to come back to play for but as I said coming back from injury is tops on the list.”
Raymond isn’t the only former Maple Leafs forward getting set to suit up against his former club.
Matt Stajan, who played 445 games for Toronto, is back for just his second game after missing 16 with a knee injury. He too is ready.
“It was the team I played for for seven years, “ said Stajan, who recorded 87 goals and 196 points in his tenure with Toronto. “It’s home. You come back to see family and friends and there’s a number of guys that grew up in this area. It’s definitely special. We only come here once a year. It’s special.”
Joe Colborne split three seasons between the Maple Leafs and Toronto Marlies, playing 16 NHL games before Calgary acquired him on Sept. 29, 2013 for a fourth round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Colborne, who has missed 17 games with a wrist injury, is not expected to return against Toronto.
After a 3-2 defeat against San Jose Sharks on Saturday, the Flames will look to improve to 10-0-1 in games following a loss. Just once this season has Calgary dropped consecutive contests and they’ve yet to lose two in a row in regulation.
Hartley credits on thing.
“Character,” he said.
“Our dressing room. There’s no doubt. Those guys, they always roll up their sleeves. We give them a challenge. They always find a way to respond. I think that’s a trademark of our hockey club.”
Calgary will look to avoid their second straight loss Tuesday in Toronto.
“I think Gio’s done a very good job of keeping to building his game. Everyone talks right now about the year that he’s having but he’s had some very big years before and he’s getting a lot more recognition for the numbers that he’s putting up this year because he’s having such a big year but they’re very well deserved. He’s been playing the same style of game and he’s been the same player…he’s obviously grown into a bigger role…but he always had the skill, always had the compete.”
- Phaneuf on Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano
The Flames face off with the Maple Leafs at 5:30 PM MT. Sportsnet West (TV) and Sportsnet 960 The FAN (radio) will carry the broadcast.
@NHLFlames will live-tweet the game and provide you will all sorts of game day content. Fans can also follow along with the hashtag #CGYvsTOR.